Taylor’s latest newsletter features a couple of dramatic run-ins with one of the most celebrated coaches in football history. Read all about it!
January 27, 2017
When Rick calls he’s always even-voiced. Calm. Matter-of-fact. Business-as-usual. But there is a little drama in his voice this day, a telltale inflection of excitement that belies his usual demeanor.
“You’re working Igby’s Friday night, and Jack Rollins is coming to see you.”
It’s 1993. We’re living in Southern California, out past the valley in Thousand Oaks, and Marsia is pregnant with Everett, our youngest. I’ve been pounding the boards for more than a decade, I have the resume that makes me at least somewhat viable (on paper) and I’m ready for something BIG to happen.
Rick Rogers has been handling my career as a personal manager for a couple of years. He’s a hustler and a fighter and a doer when it comes to the acts he handles. I consider him a friend. Rick has big-name clients (Bill Engvall to name-drop one – and by now you should know that I will name-drop anyone I’ve ever worked with, or met, whether they like it or remember it or not!) and he’s signed on with Lorimar Productions in Hollywood. As always he’s trying to push my career into the next level, whatever that might be.
Somehow he’s got Jack Rollins coming to see me in an L.A. comedy club.
Jack Rollins. Of Rollins-Joffe. Charles Joffe. The duo that produces Woody Allen. Just saying the name “Rollins” raises eyebrows in the company of showbiz types during the 80s and 90s. Rollins-Joffe manages none other than David Letterman (yep, him) and brings the kind of cache that you literally cannot buy. And now he’s coming to see me.
He’s going to see me at Igby’s.
Igby’s is a long-gone comedy club that was a true joy to play. Just off Sepulveda Boulevard in a friendly part of Los Angeles, it offered consistently great shows and all the name comedy acts of the day, at a lower price than the Improvs or the Comedy Store. It was run by “Jan,” a really nice guy who always treated me with respect and sincerity, and gave me more stage time than I deserved.
That night’s 30-minute performance for the typically energetic-and-responsive Igby’s crowd featured just about everything I had in my arsenal at the time: ventriloquism, music and stand-up all bound tightly in a cohesive set. I performed “The Flintstones Theme” as Elton John and Billy Joel and Prince and Sir Mix-A-lot. I did some politics (“The presidents of my lifetime: Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton: They’re like the anti-Mt Rushmore!”) and I closed with a tight ventriloquist presentation.
A decade of one-nighters and clubs and colleges, of TV spots and gigs in church basements and in concert halls fast-forwarded in a mashed-up blur to coincide with that little “showcase” in a now-forgotten comedy club for the biggest comedy PLAYER on the planet.
And we met, Mr. Rollins and I, on the little porch right outside the front door of Igby’s as the show went on inside, the laughter washed over us every time people came in or walked out of the club. He shook my hand. He shook his head. He got right to the point.
“You’ll never make much money,” he said. “You’re smart. But the audience doesn’t like smart. Smart is boring. You don’t have to be smart. Drop the puppets. Drop the music. You need to concentrate on doing stand-up comedy.”
He wasn’t mean. He wasn’t insulting. He had a lifetime of experience and knowledge and an “eye” for talent and what worked and what didn’t work and he gave me advice. He tried to find positive things to say. He was not interested in how I approached my job. He didn’t care about the moment, or the audience reaction, because he was interested in something else. He was looking for something else.
Or maybe someone else. Let’s be honest. There were then, and there are now, a lot of talented, funny, interesting and dynamic comedy acts in the world. Jack Rollins just did not “get” the kid with the puppets and the music and the “too smart” takes on current events.
It’s 24 years later. Rick Rogers moved to Dallas and is quite successful in his new life. Bill Engvall went on to fame and fortune with “The Blue Collar Comedy Tour.” Igby’s is gone-but-not-forgotten. Jack Rollins (and his longtime partner Charles Joffe) have passed away.
Me? I have this little live act I do, that still features comedy, music and ventriloquism. Like Rollins I don’t care what anyone else thinks. If I had the chance to meet him once more I’d thank him again for taking the time to come to see me. I’d tell him that I still remember everything he said that night. That he helped define how I approach my work.
And I’d tell him, with all due respect, he was wrong. No hard feelings.